HAMLET — Police in one Richmond County community are watching their sixes a little more closely after one of them had a close call last weekend.
A Hamlet officer had responded to the Hamlet Food Mart around 11 p.m. Sunday to help someone unlock their vehicle. Shortly after he stepped out of his patrol car, he heard gunfire, according to Detective Capt. Randy Dover.
The officer, who was not named, heard the first two shots, turned around and saw the muzzle flash from three more shots, Dover said. Although the officer could not see his alleged assailant, Dover said the shots came from the area of the Washington Court apartments on Washington Avenue.
Neither the officer nor bystanders were harmed, Dover said, however, the canopy over the gas pumps was hit.
Investigators recovered evidence at the scene, but Dover declined to divulge what items were collected.
Dover said the incident, upon investigation, doesn’t appear to have been a setup, just an opportunity for the shooter who “took a chance.”
Thursday night, the department received another unlock call, this time at the same apartments from whence the shots came. Taking no chances, the entire night crew responded.
“We take precautions anyway,” Dover said, adding that officers will now have to take more.
He said this is the first time he’s aware of an officer being shot at since he joined the department in July of 2014.
According to Dover, the Hamlet Police Department has received multiple threats on officers over the past few months. He believes the threats and shots fired — along with most of the violent crime plaguing the area over the past year — to be gang related.
The city cancelled its Fourth of July festivities this year due to threats of retaliation following the June 28 murder of 20-year-old Tierrell Martin at the Circle B convenience store.
Last summer, Dover was one of the first officers in Richmond County to suggest legitimate gang activity in Richmond County, following a rash of shootings and other violent crimes. He says most of the area gang members are affiliated with the Bloods, Crips or Folk Nation.
Dover, along with Hamlet Chief Scott Waters and officer Chris Lampley and Bryan Ingram and Jeff Tuttle from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, recently attended a state gang conference in Winston-Salem.
Richmond County Sheriff James E. Clemmons Jr. in December announced the formation of a gang task force, made up of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, Rockingham and Hamlet police departments, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the N.C. Department of Public Safety Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, Richmond County Schools and the system’s Special Police, District Attorney Reese Saunders’ office and the office of Ripley Rand, then-U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina.
Sunday’s shooting and the fatal shooting of Tierrell Martin are still under investigation. Anyone with information on either case is encouraged to contact the Hamlet Police Department at 910-582-2551 or Richmond County Crime Stoppers at 910-997-5454.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675.